One question I always asked during a consult and to my clients is ‘how’s your sleep?’
And I noticed it’s not something we are used to being asked about. But hear me out, there’s a reason why I asked this question and why this question is so important.
In a 2018 survey by the National Sleep Foundation, while the majority of Americans are aware of the link between sleep and effectiveness, only 10 per cent prioritises sleep over other daily activities. The 2017 Great British Bedtime Report listed stress and worry as the main reason for poor sleep, with 25 per cent needing to turn to the bottle at bedtime. South Koreans ranked second as the country with the longest working hours, and a study conducted in 2018 noted the stress faced by salaried workers with limited sleep and rest time. Sleeping aids are forecasted to hit a whopping $101 billion by 2023.
My mind is blown. Society is sleep-deprived and we are bloody exhausted.
And we know we are short of sleep.
I mean just think of the demand for sleeping medication, smart mattresses, sleep tracking app and so on. At some point in our lives, we all know someone who needs sleeping pills or needs extra help to get a night’ sleep. Just looking at my side table, I have a lavender eye mask, dehumidifier, coconut oil, organic vapour rub and I use the Sleep Cycle app to track my quality of sleep. And for many years, I had to use a mouth guard because my stress levels and eventually burnout meant I grind and clench my teeth during sleep. I’m lucky to have these resources to support a bedtime routine and better sleep in comparison to many others who may, unfortunately, have to rely on more complicated pricey devices or sleeping medication.
We’ve all had our fair share of days when we don’t sleep so good or have trouble going to sleep. If you’re burnt out or under an enormous amount of stress, your quality of sleep is more likely than not affected. And exhausted as you feel, there may be times when you can’t sleep at all. More often than not, persistent thoughts and worries about work and life are the reasons that are keeping us away from a sound sleep.
And I don’t want to be insensitive especially to parents with young children, who are sleep-deprived. Mothers lost up to 40 minutes of sleep a night in the first year, according to a study conducted in Germany. The circumstances of our lives don’t always permit us to have the best sleep we want. That I acknowledge and I hope you can find ways that work with you and your partner/spouse (or here’s a starting point). I hear even royalty is not spared from sleep-deprivation, supposedly.
Sleep – good quality sleep – is essential. Not too much, not too little. Good sleep will help your body self-repair, do a little housekeeping, make better decisions and supports creativity and so on. You know you feel energised in the morning and are less cranky when you slept well. Think about it. When was the last time you got some decent sleep? If you’re having trouble recalling when exactly, it might be time to focus on bringing back some nice Zzzz.
Getting decent sleep is often the first thing I encouraged and recommend clients to address before trying to solve all of that stress and burnout issues they’re faced with. To try and find ways – that works for them – to get better sleep. The reason behind this is simple. It’s really hard to get our mind and body out of a burnout rut and asking it to do what we want it to do, if we’re simply too tired, running on empty and incapable of thinking clearly. We can’t make clear and purposeful decisions when we are just too exhausted.
Here are five things you can try and start with for better sleep.
As a note: if you have been having trouble with sleep far too regularly and nothing seems to help, it also be may be time to speak with your physician.
1. To begin with, it may help to track your sleeping patterns, bedtime habits and how you feel in the morning. You can use a sleep tracking app or simply observe your habits and choices. What do you see yourself doing before bedtime? Ask yourself, what is one thing you can bring in to help you sleep better tonight? Just one small thing.
2. Put away your phone or gadgets an hour – at least – before bed and start winding down. I know this is incredibly hard. I have this poor habit too. But I am trying, and one way that works well for me is putting it on silence, putting it further away and switching all my notifications off.
3. A good rule of thumb is to keep your room dark, clean and quiet. So don’t eat in bed. Keep it cool as much as possible. I have a lot of ‘heat’ in my body (according to my Ayurveda mind-body constitution or ‘dosha’) and a cool room helps me sleep better. You may also want to have appropriate blankets for the season. If you need to, no shame in getting some earplugs, eyeshades and a support pillow to support sound sleep.
5. Try the Ayurvedic tradition of rubbing your soles and scalp with suitable oil before you sleep. In the ancient Vedas, the feet are considered the body’s foundation and contain reflex points to all organs and parts of the body. This has been my favourite thing to do at bedtime and I used cooling coconut oil.
Give it a try. See what helps. Keep trying. One step at a time. Ask for help if needed. You’ve got nothing to lose but everything to gain with a good night’s rest. Have a good sleep.